|A Leap of Leopards, Part 2||by Doug Chaltry|
|4 October 2003||email: doug(at)ontheway.us|
As I mentioned in Part 1 of this article, we have four available kits of this awesome MBT. Like the Leopard 1, the Leopard 2 was constructed in batches. The first batch was known simply as the Leopard 2. The second and third batches were the Leopard 2A1. The first batch was modernised to bring them up to batch two and three standards. The modernised batch one vehicles were then referred to as Leopard 2A2. Fourth batch vehicles were known as Leopard 2A3, and fifth through eighth batch tanks were the ubiquitous Leopard 2A4's. The first through fourth batch tanks were all eventually modernised to A4 standards (except for the internal fire supression systems), and they were all then redesignated as Leopard 2A4's.
For dimensional reference, I used the measurements in the Jane's and Osprey New Vanguard titles. Their measurements were very close, with a minor discrepancy in hull width. The only kit which included measurements was Hasegawa, and those measurements were very different than the others, and I am assuming, incorrect.
Galaxy Leopard 2A3; No. 135
Although labeled as a Leopard 2A3, the differences between the A3 and A4 versions are quite minor. The only external difference is the location of two of the four return rollers, but this kit has only three return rollers per side, which is incorrect for either version. The return rollers are not visible with the side skirts in place. Since all early Leopard variants were eventually upgraded to A4 standards, this is essentially an A4. It is, however, a fairly poor kit. As is typical of most Galaxy kits, this one exhibits very poor molding and detail. The hull width is 52.5mm, and the length is 107.5mm, so the dimensions are accurate. The detail is very soft and rough. The two turret hatches are open, and the driver's hatch is closed. The wheels are extremely poor, the tracks are a type of vinyl which eats through styrene, and the track pattern is incorrect (they are the same tracks that they seem to include with all their MBT kits). And here's the part I really do not understand: the kit includes an MG-3 for use on the AA mount which is actually 1/35th scale! And why exactly are we supposed to put a 1/35th scale machinegun on a 1/72nd scale kit? I do not recommend this kit.
Hasegawa Leopard 2A4; Kit No. 31134/MT34
I have mixed feelings about this kit. Some features are very good, others, not so much. First, the dimensions: the hull width is just over 51mm, which looks very good, and the length is about 108mm, which also is quite accurate. The level of detail on the hull and turret is very high. Panel lines are recessed; engine intake and exhaust grates are molded in excellent relief; there are small patches on non-slip surface coating on the hull and turret roof. Although the pioneer tools are molded directly onto the hull, they are also in excellent relief, and are very 3-dimensional. The two turret hatches are molded open, but the driver's hull hatch is not. The track ice cleats are molded as separate parts to be glued to the hull front, and most of the smaller details are also separate parts, such as the mirrors, tow shackles and headlights. The AA MG-3 is also fairly decent.
Some downsides to this kit: the handholds on the turret sides are molded directly onto the turret which looks very poor. And here's the big complaint. I don't know what Hasegawa was thinking when they designed the tracks. Have you seen the HO scale vehicles by ROCO Minitanks? How they do their tracks? The wheels are all double-wide single wheels, instead of a pair of slim wheels, and they are all molded into one piece held together by the track. The track is very poorly detailed on the outside, with no detail whatsoever on the inside, except for some teeth. The sprocket wheel is a solid piece, like the other wheels, but the teeth makes it look even worse. These are some of the poorest designed tracks/wheels I have ever seen on a 1/72nd scale kit.
A couple of other notes, this is the only kit in this review that includes a tank commander figure. He is wearing sunglasses and a beret, is extremely well detailed and proportioned, and scales out to 173cm (5.6ft) tall, so he would also be good for 1/76th scale vehicles. This kit also comes with a well-detailed snorkel tube for the commander's hatch. I believe this is the same style of tube used on Leopard 1's, so it could be used with any kit in this review. Like all Hasegawa kits, this kit also includes excellent instructions and painting guide. The decals in my kit are too old to use, but they look pretty good, if a bit thick. Markings are included for two vehicles in the former West German Army. Perhaps newer editions of this kit have more current markings. My example is very old.
Conclusion, aside from the great detail of this kit, I would not recommend it based solely on the horrible tracks.
Revell Leopard 2A4; Kit No. 03103 (Matchbox No. 40182; Monogram No. 2322)
Again, this is a kit with strengths and weaknesses. The kit's width is 51mm, and the length is 105mm, which is a little too short, about 1/73.5 scale. The hull detail on this kit is just as fine as on the Hasegawa offering, except that it lacks the patches of non-slip coating. Also, there are some poles (survey or spotting poles?) mounted on the front hull next to the driver's hatch. (Thanks to Oliver Yuen for identifying these poles for me.) The track ice cleats are molded onto the hull, as are the pioneer tools, and their relief is therefore not as good as it could be if molded as separate parts.
The turret roof is well molded and detailed, with both hatches open (but the driver's hull hatch is closed). But the turret and hull sides are completely smooth, whereas both should have small access hatch details, as the Hasegawa kit correctly has. Also, my kit, which is the Matchbox edition, is lacking several key turret details, such as the handholds, smoke grenade launchers, and some tools. I do not know if the Monogram or Revell issues of this kit come with these missing parts, but I think that they do. Eduard has released a photoetched brass detail set for this kit, which includes all of the missing details, and much more.
Where this kit obviously beats the Hasegawa kit are the wheels and tracks. The wheels are molded as separate pairs of wheels, with good bolt detail, and the tracks are link-and-length segments, with very good detail. Markings included in the Matchbox kit are for two German Leopards, and the decals are fairly decent, although mine silvered a little bit. I don't know if the Monogram and Revell editions use different markings, but I doubt it.
I think that the best way to make an excellent Leopard 2, is to kit-bash this Revell kit with the Hasegawa kit. Use the Hasegawa hull and turret, with the Revell wheels and tracks. Of course, that is a bit pricey, and a waste of a kit, but for contests, this plan would produce the best results.
Revell Leopard 2A5; Kit No. 03105
This kit is identical to the earlier A4 version, but includes an extra sprue of new parts for the A5 version. The turret is completely new, as are the side skirts (the late style side skirts were actually introduced on late examples of the A4 version). There are also a couple of add-on armor pieces for the front hull. A good thing about this kit is that it includes all the turret details that were missing from the earlier A4 kit. So if you are in the market for an A4, this kit will actually be better to get than the A4 kit.
Downside: the A5 had a re-modeled driver's hatch. Instead of the oblique-shaped hatch which twisted open, as on the A4, the A5's driver's hatch was rectangular, and slid open to the side. This change was not made on the kit, and would take some minor surgery to scratch-build the alteration. Also, since this kit uses the same hull as the A4, it shares the slight dimensional inaccuracies as well. The decals are nice, and again, include examples of two German vehicles. If I had to recommend a single Leopard 2 kit, this would be the one.
The Leopard 2A4 is in use by Germany, Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, Sweden and Denmark. German, Netherlands and Danish Leopard 2A4s are being upgraded to A5 standards. Spain and Sweden are license-building their own Leopard 2A5s.
Netherlands Leopard 2s are called Leopard 2 NL. The only external differences between the NL and the German A4 are a different style of smoke grenade launcher, 7.62 mm FN MAG machineguns in place of the MG-3s, and a collimater at the end of the cannon barrel. A number of the NLs were sold to Austria, and the rest are being (have been?) upgraded to A5 standards. This should be a very easy conversion for model builders.
Austrian Leopards are NL (A4) models bought from Netherlands.
Swiss A4s are called "Panzer 87 Leopard 2". There are a number of differences from the German A4s. There is a slight slope at the left rear side of the turret, and an extra storage boxes on the turret rear. The MG-3s are replaced by Swiss MG 87s, with storage for machinegun gun barrels on the turret sides. New exhaust mufflers have also been installed. Again, this should be a very easy conversion for modelers.
Swedish Leopard 2A4s are called Stridsvagn 121, and are not externally different than the German A4s. Swedish Leopard 2A5s are called Stridsvagn 122, and are technologically superior to all other Leopard tanks. They have additional hull and turret armor, and many internal modifications. The external differences are substantial enough to make a conversion project very involved, with a lot of necessary reference photos.
The Danish Leopard 2s started as A4 versions from Germany, but are being upgraded to A5 standards.
Spanish Leopard 2s are mostly home-built A5s, although they leased a number of A4s from Germany for training.
References used: Osprey New Vanguard No. 24 - Leopard 2 Main Battle Tank 1979-1998 by U. Schnellbacher, M. Jerchel, and M. Badrocke; Jane's Tank Recognition Guide, by Christopher Foss; Tamiya News No. 8 - Photo Album of West German Leopard Tank, by Dieter Schmitz; and Concord Color Series No. 4004 - Armor of the West, by Yves Debay.